|Inset: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast|
|Chicago funeral for Emmett Till, lynched in 1955 by white supremacists in Mississippi. Inset, Kadiatou Diallo, left, whose son Amadou was killed by New York cops in 1999, and Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in Texas, at Till 60th anniversary commemoration in Chicago.|
A weekend of events hosted by the family of Emmett Till and the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation brought together families of Black youth killed by police or racist thugs, including relatives of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Kenrick Johnson, George Kemp Jr., Rekia Boyd, Andrew Johnson III, Sean Bell, Marlon Brown, Oscar Grant and Tinoris Williams. They powerfully brought home the continuity of today’s struggles to the Black-led social movement of the 1950s and ’60s that put an end to the system of racist segregation known as Jim Crow.
“We’re here to say Black Lives Matter,” said Ron Davis, whose son Jordan Davis was killed by a white racist thug in Jacksonville, Florida, three years ago.
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, was kidnapped and tortured to death while visiting family in Money, Mississippi, after reportedly whistling at a white woman. Till’s cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., explained how white supremacists Roy Bryant and his brother, J.W. Milam, took Till from the house at gunpoint in the middle of the night.
The two brutally whipped Till with .45 caliber pistols, shot him in the head, tied a 75-pound fan around his neck with barbed wire and threw his mangled body into the Tallahatchie River.
Mamie Till insisted that Emmett’s casket be opened. Fifty thousand people filed through the church where her son lay; millions around the world saw the photographs. The response to the lynching helped galvanize the fights against racism that had been building since World War II into a mass social movement. It helped win a new generation of youth to the struggle, laying the groundwork for the creation of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Bryant and Milam were arrested and tried for the murder but were acquitted by an all-white jury after barely an hour’s deliberation. Months later they admitted to the murder and described it in detail in an interview with Look magazine. They said Till told them, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m as good as you are.”
The 60th anniversary events here included an Aug. 28 procession from the church where Till’s funeral had been held to his gravesite, and a dinner that evening built on the theme, “The Legacy Lives — Emmett Till Remembrance Dinner.” A Youth Empowerment Day of film screenings, cultural events, seminars and a Sunday gospel service rounded out the weekend.
Geneva Reed-Veal, whose daughter Sandra Bland died in police custody in rural Hempstead, Texas, after a minor traffic stop, spoke at both the cemetery and the dinner. “It’s been one month and 28 days,” she said. “I’m tired of talking. I’m tired of crying. But I’m not tired of fighting.”
“I came to support the family in getting the truth out,” Toni Taylor from St. Louis, mother of Cary Bell Jr. who was killed by police in 2013, told the Militant. “We need to fight together.”
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